Sunday, November 11, 2012

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

Veterans Day is based on the armistice of "the war to end all wars," which turned out instead to be the first great war of the twentieth century. A lot of great poetry came out of that war. One of the best known was Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est but my favorite has always been the more subtly ironic "Naming of Parts" by Henry Reed. Some things don't change much. Not so long ago in the Iraq war there was a lot of "we have not got" when it came to properly armored vehicles.

Naming of Parts

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,

We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,

We shall have what to do after firing. But today,

Today we have naming of parts. Japonica

Glistens like coral in all the neighboring gardens,

And today we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this

Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,

When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,

Which in your case you have not got. The branches

Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,

Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released

With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me

See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy

If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms

Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see

Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this

Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it

Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this

Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards

The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:

They call is easing the Spring.

They call is easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy

If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,

And the breech, the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,

Which in our case we have not got; and the almond blossom

Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,

For today we have the naming of parts.


  1. I had not read this before. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Oh, we don't know that one ~ thanks for sharing it!
    Happy Veteran's day.


  3. I've never read that before. What a wonderful Veteran's Day tribute.

    We are so thankful for our veterans and their amazing sacrifices for us all.

  4. This is wonderful! Thank you for sharing it!

    Love ya lots,
    Mitch and Molly